[Oeva-list] The real EV pushback.

nscale7 at aol.com nscale7 at aol.com
Mon Jul 26 21:53:19 PDT 2010

stevel at fern.com writes:
> [with propane] we have a fairly cheap, and available fuel, with a "better" pollution profile than gasoline or diesel, that has been available for MANY years. And yet it has failed, in the US to become a major player in the "over the road" market. Largely, in my opinion, due to limited range and lack of refueling capability.
Range is far greater than in an EV, and hundreds of thousands of possible refueling stations exist. The U-haul shop down the street from my house sells propane into any size tank you have, even a car. The hardware store does as well, as do many gas stations. My house is plumbed for natural gas, I could refuel a CNG car at home just like an EV. Fueling is not the problem.
>The existence of off-the-shelf parts to do conversions and a network of dealers prepared to do the work was in place. 
This is the problem. The reason CNG / LPG never caught on is because this network of conversion shops does not exist, because of the EPA and the Clean Air Act. EV conversions are thriving, with thousands of them nationwide, because EVs are exempt from the Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, there are effectively no CNG or LPG conversions, despite, as you mentioned, being far less expensive in parts and labor and requiring far less modification to the vehicle than an EV conversion. 
The reason is the Clean Air Act regulates every modification made to a combustion engine to prevent tampering with pollution controls. The mechanics that do CNG / LPG conversions must purchase the appropriate EPA permits. The actual cost of a CNG / LPG conversion in parts and labor is only a few hundred, far less than an EV conversion, but the cost of the EPA permit is ultimately added to the price of the conversion, because those permits are pricey.
The permits cost $10,000 each, are engine and model specific, and must be renewed annually. If a conversion shop wanted to convert, for example, a four-cylinder 2009 Ford F-150 to CNG, they would need a $10,000 dollar permit. If they also wanted to do conversions on the six-cylinder version of that same truck, they would need another, separate $10,000 permit. If they also wanted to do conversions on the extended-cab version of that same truck, that would require another two permits, one for the four-cylinder extended-cab, and one for the six-cylinder extended-cab. All totaled, to be allowed to perform CNG conversions on all versions of that one truck (four or six-cylinder, extended or regular-cab,) would require permits totaling $40,000, and that’s only for the 2009 model year. If they also wanted to convert the 2008 or 2010 versions, that’s a completely different set of permits, and those permits are only good for one year, and so must be purchased annually. 
The result? There are effectively no CNG or LPG conversions on the road, and those that do exist are wildly expensive because the owner was willing/crazy enough to pay not only for the parts and labor, but also for the EPA permit. 
Meanwhile, production CNG vehicles are few and mostly limited to commercial/industrial vehicles like garbage trucks and busses; Currently only Honda offers a CNG passenger car, and only in certain markets. The lack of production vehicles crippled the electric vehicle field, but electric vehicles exist today largely because the “rabid fans” you speak of built conversions, demonstrating there was demand for them. While the lack of production EVs was crippling, the lack of production CNG vehicles was fatal, because the EPA ensured there could be no conversions, regardless of how many “rabid fans” there were of the technology.
For more on CNG / LPG vehicles and EPA licensing, see this article:
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